Children of Empire: The History of Eurasians in China, Hong Kong and Britain, 1830-1960 (Early Career Scheme)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project examines the intersection of concepts of race, nationality and citizenship in the British empire through the history of Anglo-Chinese Eurasian communities between 1830 and the 1960s. Although Eurasians were the most controversial peripheral group in treaty port China and colonial Hong Kong, there are very few published studies of Anglo-Chinese communities and individuals. This project fills this gap by exploring the lives and careers of Eurasians in Hong Kong, China and imperial Britain. Ultimately, this research will disentangle the complex relationship between race, nationality and political and professional status in the empire world.

This project breaks new ground by investigating the international history of mixed-race communities in the context of the British empire. By focusing primarily on three major port cities – Hong Kong, Shanghai and Liverpool – this study identifies the connections forged between different sites of empire by Eurasians while also examining how local contexts informed their political and professional identities. Therefore, the research outputs, which include a monograph and a related website, will contribute new perspectives on Chinese, British, and global history. Furthermore, debates about the supposed dangers of Sino-foreign encounters ran through the empire world, and the tangible product of these fears can be found in the anti-Chinese exclusion policies of Canada, Australia, the United States and South Africa. This study demonstrates how the experiences of Eurasians in China and Hong Kong can elucidate this empire-wide discourse and its impact on policy-making.

There are four intertwined strands to this research, which brings together social, cultural and political approaches to studying the past. Firstly, the project will examine cultural representations of Eurasians in popular literature and film and the ways in which these portrayals expressed imperial disquiet about racial mixing. The second theme is Eurasian childhoods, with a particular focus on education. Thirdly, the project will explore the professional and social statuses of Eurasian individuals. Finally, British immigration policy and the journeys of Eurasians to Britain will shed light upon the influence of imperial racial discourse on definitions of nationality.
Effective start/end date1/01/1430/06/18


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